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Thursday 21 November 2019

Davy: Last year was bitter sweet

Dublin defender just delighted to be back in thick of action after foot surgery nightmare

BATTLE: David Byrne in action for Dublin against Meath in the Leinster SFC Final. Pic: Sportsfile
BATTLE: David Byrne in action for Dublin against Meath in the Leinster SFC Final. Pic: Sportsfile

How's this for luck? After a brilliant League campaign in 2018, when he rivalled Jonny Cooper for Dublin's best defender in the competition, Davy Byrne broke a bone in his right foot.

Six weeks out, or so they thought.

"It was kind of a weird one," the St Olaf's defender recalls.

"I tried to get back. You take six weeks off to take the weight off it but then it didn't actually fuse together."

Having started seven of Dublin's eight League games - and come off the bench in the other - Byrne spent the summer assisting the supporter members of the management team.

WAITING GAME: Kevin O’Callaghan of Kildare is dispossessed by Rory O’Carroll of Dublin during the Leinster SFC semi-final.
WAITING GAME: Kevin O’Callaghan of Kildare is dispossessed by Rory O’Carroll of Dublin during the Leinster SFC semi-final.

"I had been going well in the League," he agrees.

"I felt I'd been going well in the League. And then to be ruled out with injury is always frustrating. But that's sport. It can be cruel at times."

"Originally the plan was to get back and be involved. So it wasn't a case of the injury happening and then that's me out for the year.

"So I was involved with the team all the way through. Not playing. But involved and supporting the lads."

His last appearance for Dublin in 2018 was April 1, when they beat Galway by four points in the League final in Croke Park.

His next one came on February 28 this year when Byrne was given a start against Mayo on the wintry Saturday evening in Croke Park.

"Yeah it was a long time coming back from the surgery because I didn't play in the first (three) games of the League.

"At the start of training, when we met back in January, I was doing my own thing and getting back to fitness levels.

Character

"Then eventually I got back to fitness and got the health back."

"Yeah, it was pretty long. It should have been less but when the bone didn't fuse, we had to put off the surgery until after September, when the season was over."

Then, just as Byrne was within sight of the comeback line, Rory O'Carroll reappeared.

The man tipped to replace the pre-eminent full-back of the early part of this decade now had the player he was supposed to replace for competition.

"I think Rory came back because of his own life decisions," Byrne reckons, dispelling the notion that Jim Gavin sent an SOS to New Zealand.

"I don't think it had anything to do with football. And seeing as he was here, Jim asked him to come back on the panel and give it a go."

"I didn't actually really know until not long before the general public knew. Rory is a great lad, a great character. And to have him back is fantastic."

All last year, the talk of Dublin's vulnerabilities had been based around their perceived shortcomings to direct ball to the edge of the square.

Meanwhile, Byrne - a naturalised full-back with a strong aerial presence - was carrying water bottles and aiding the Dublin statistics team.

"It's great to see the lads win, no matter what," he says.

"To see the team win is fantastic. It lifts you up. And then I suppose after the season when you're looking back on it a bit, you think 'it would have been nice to be out there.' "So a little bitter-sweet. But delighted to see the lads win."

Despite his lack of direct contribution, Byrne received a medal last December - his fifth Celtic Cross at just 26 years of age.

"I don't know if, when I reflect on my career, how many All-Irelands I'll feel I'll have won," he says.

"But I have the medal, yeah."

"The ones you play in are always that bit more special."

If it comes to pass then, this one could be the sweetest of the lost.

Despite his inactivity for much of the League, Byrne has started all three of Dublin's Championship games to date and played every minute therein.

He has been a highly-functioning component of a defence that hasn't conceded a goal and whose average concession of points in the Leinster SFC was just above eight.

Yet with Jonny Cooper still to return and Rory O'Carroll waiting impatiently for a start, Byrne seems as permanent member of the Dublin full-back line as there is just now after nearly a year of deep frustration.

"You get a little bit of doubt," he admits.

"And I suppose with any injury, the more you play on it, the more confident you get on your foot and your injury and your own performance.

"So the more game time and the more training you get, the more confident you feel.

"Being injured last year," Byrne adds, "it really puts perspective on how easily it can be taken away."

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